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Greg Peck: Are Oscars still relevant?

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Greg Peck
March 3, 2014

Maybe Ellen DeGeneres did a good and entertaining job of hosting the Academy Awards show last night, but if she would have spent less time organizing that “selfie” with celebrities and passing out carryout pizza, she might have kept the event on schedule and allowed more viewers to stay tuned to the end.

The TV schedule suggested the event was supposed to wrap up by 10:30. I wanted to see the big awards handed out, but even 10:30 is a stretch for a guy whose workday alarm clock rings at 5 a.m. When the event dragged on past that time, I pulled the covers over my head and fell asleep while my wife, Cheryl, finished watching it.

Cheryl and I were hoping that “12 Years a Slave” would win for Best Picture, and it did. We managed to see four of the nine Best Picture nominees in theaters, including the other two leading candidates, “Gravity” and “American Hustle.” I liked both of those films, but when “Gravity” kept pulling in awards early in the show, I was afraid it might trump our favorite. It's not that “12 Years a Slave” is an enjoyable film to watch; far from it. But it is, I believe, a brutally realistic portrayal of a terrible chapter in our nation's history. It's a far more significant film and will stand the test of time far better than the other nominees.

I was surprised to see the headline “Do the Oscars still matter?” atop Kevin McDonough's TV column in Saturday's Gazette. He suggested the film industry has lost confidence, direction and identity.

Hmm.

“Let's face it, the movies still may be the place to go see superhero movies, talking toys or blockbuster sequels, but television has long since eclipsed film as the place where thinking viewers get their entertainment,” McDonough wrote.

Hmm.

McDonough reasons that TV viewers are more passionate about TV series such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” than they are about this year's Oscar-nominated films. He argues that an Oscar nomination means little more to most of us than a reminder to put that film in our Netflix queues so we can later watch it at home—on TV.

OK, but if TV is for “thinking viewers,” I give you “Honey Boo Boo,” other “reality” TV shows and other inane series. They didn't dub it the “boob tube” for nothing.

No, we might not want to pay big dollars for tickets and concessions to sit in a theater while some nitwit next to us fiddles with a distracting iPhone or a bunch of kids can't behave. But I don't see any superheroes, talking toys or sequels among the nine films nominated for Best Picture. And if the Oscar doesn't matter, how did “Argo,” last year's Best Picture, parlay $110 million in gross domestic revenues before the nomination into $136 million—a 23 percent increase?

And don't think any of those actors and actresses who won individual awards last night will be short of future work invitations.

I think the Oscar still does matter, and I'm really glad to see “12 Years a Slave” win the evening's biggest honor. Hats off to all involved.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.



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